Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Another False Lynching

Lynchings were relatively common during the 1800s and early 1900s, but falsely or incorrectly reported lynchings were also not altogether uncommon. I know this was the case in Missouri, and I assume it was true elsewhere as well. Sometimes the reported victim had, in fact, escaped the would-be lynchers or otherwise survived the lynching attempt. And sometimes a crime took place and newspapers reported a subsequent lynching when mob action against the perpetrator of the crime had not even been attempted but rather only rumored.
An example was the case of Katie Jacobs, a twelve-year-old girl living near Verona who was sexually assaulted by a black man on January 21, 1894, as she was on her way home after Sunday morning church services. The man raped her and then gagged her and tied her to a tree with her own clothing. As he left, he told her he had a nearby partner who would soon be there to take his turn at raping her and that the second man would kill her if she tried to scream or get loose. A black man did show up and assault the girl again, but authorities later concluded that it was the same man who’d simply changed hats and otherwise tried to disguise his appearance.
There were several false reports in the immediate wake of this incident, including one report that a black man had been apprehended and burned at the stake. Two black men were, in fact, captured at Purdy as suspects, but they were soon released when it was determined they had nothing to do with the rape. Two other suspects were arrested at Nevada and one as far away as Willow Springs, but they, too, were quickly released.
On January 24, H. B. “Pete” Barclay, a black man from Weir City, Kansas, was arrested at the Gulf Railroad station in Springfield, largely on the grounds that he’d come into town from a westerly direction and had been seen at the Billings train station, which was not terribly far from Verona. He was taken to Verona but was released after Katie Jacobs said he was not the man who had assaulted her.
In late May, a black man named Andy Boyd was arrested at Pierce City on suspicion of being the person who’d raped Katie. When he was taken before the girl, she said she thought he was the man but that she couldn’t be sure. He was locked up on suspicion, nonetheless. At his preliminary hearing in June, Katie seemed more certain that he was the man who’d violated her, and Boyd was bound over for trial on a charge of rape. When his trial came up in late August at Mt. Vernon, the jury decided that, although they thought he was guilty, there was a reasonable doubt. They therefore voted to acquit.
As far as I’ve been able to determine, nothing else ever came of this case, but nonetheless “two unknown Negroes” were listed in a 1922 report of the Missouri Negro Industrial Commission as victims of lynching near Verona, Missouri, on January 22, 1894. And, indeed, this bit of misinformation has continued to be passed down to the present day and is still listed on certain websites that purport to keep track of all known lynchings in America.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Murder with a Hint of Scandal

The murder of wealthy Tulsa businessman Samuel C. Davis in Joplin, Missouri, on the night of December 18, 1916, was a mystery to lawmen who investigated it in the days that followed. Was it just a burglary gone wrong? Was Davis targeted by his business enemies? Or did the motive involve romantic jealousy? No one ever knew for sure, because the case was never solved.
The forty-four-year-old Davis, half Creek Indian, worked as a cowboy as a young man but settled down to become a respected citizen who made a small fortune in oil, gas, and real estate investments. He and his wife resided in a stately mansion in Tulsa, and their daughter married the son of Tulsa's mayor.
But Davis's world began to spiral out of control in early 1916 when divorcee Daisy Carter, a former professional swimmer, approached him about securing a home loan for her. The two became romantically involved, and Davis began drinking heavily. He spent lavishly on his paramour and provided her with homes in Tulsa and Joplin.
When he started divorce proceedings against his wife, she filed charges of adultery against him and Daisy. In June of 1916, Davis and his lover were bound over for trial on the adultery charge, but the charge was apparently dropped as a result of the divorce settlement in which Mrs. Davis was to receive $84,000 and other valuable property.
On Monday evening, December 18, Davis and Ms. Carter went to a movie theater in Joplin, accompanied by Daisy's mother and also her housekeeper. After the movie, they returned to Carter's house on North Jackson in Joplin and were surprised by a masked intruder with a revolver in his hand. Davis whipped out his own pistol, and the two shot at each other. Davis's shot missed, but the intruder's did not. Davis fell and died almost instantly. The three women closed the door to the room where the intruder was and held it shut, but they opened it and let him escape after he threatened to shoot through the door.
Investigators had no clear theory of the crime at first, but they soon discounted robbery as a motive, because nothing had been disturbed in the house, even though the intruder was known to have been there close to half an hour before the movie goers arrived home. Lawmen adopted the theory that the assailant was an enemy of Davis who had lain in wait for him, but what kind of enemy no one ever knew for sure. Davis's divorce had been scheduled to become final later in the week, and he and Carter were supposed to get married the following Sunday. Was it the intruder's purpose to make sure they didn't? Or was it someone who hated Davis for another reason?

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Walter Hartley, Ozarks Bad Man

Walter Hartley left behind a long history of criminal behavior when he was finally killed in a shootout with law officers on May 18, 1934, near Dugginsville, Missouri, just across the state line in Marion County, Arkansas. The "Ozarks desperado" had a record of bank robbery dating back over ten years.
Hartley was about twenty-five years old when he first got into serious trouble in January of 1924 for holding up the Cabool State Bank, located just a few miles east of the Dunn community near where he'd grown up in rural Texas County. Hartley and a sidekick, Ernest Atkinson, entered the bank wearing false mustaches and brandishing revolvers just after closing time on the 21st. They herded three bank officials into the vault, locked it, and then scooped up all the loot contained in the cash drawer. They got about $2,500 but overlooked over $10,000 in an open safe. The crooks made their getaway in a Ford roadster but were captured late the same afternoon at the Cabool train station, where they were waiting to catch a westbound train.
Hartley was tried at a special January term of the Texas County Circuit Court. Found guilty of bank robbery, he was sentenced to ten years in the state pen but was discharged under merit time on October 1, 1929, after serving barely over half his term.
Hartley and his first wife, Blanche, split either while he was in prison or shortly after he got out, because Hartley, now about 35 years old, married a 17 or 18-year-old girl not long after he came home from Jeff City. The young woman, though, apparently did little to corral her husband's restless, criminal spirit. Hartley was arrested in January of 1932 and charged in Christian County with robbing the Bank of Sparta, along with an accomplice, on November 6, 1931, and with robbing the Bank Highlandville by himself on December 11, 1931. He was also suspected but not charged in the September, 1928 robbery of the Bank of Chadwick.
Tried first for the Highlandville heist, Hartley was convicted in early February 1932 and sentenced to 20 years in the penitentiary. The case was appealed, however, and Hartley was released on $20,000 bond.
While still free on bond, Hartley was charged in July of 1933 as a participant in the robbery of the Bank of Hammond in Ozark County two months earlier. Held initially at Gainesville in default of $20,000 bond, he was transferred to the West Plains jail in neighboring Howell County. Shortly after the transfer, he escaped and fled the territory.
Hartley was recaptured in Oklahoma in April of 1934 during a dragnet that had spread over that state in search of Clyde Barrow in the wake of the Barrow gang's notorious shootout with police in Joplin, Missouri.
Brought back to Missouri, Hartley was lodged in the Ozark County Jail at Gainesville on the Hammond Bank robbery charge. Less than a month later, on May 12, 1934, Hartley brandished a knife and overpowered Sheriff S.W. Daniel when the lawman came to feed Hartley and another inmate. Hartley took the lawman's gun and made his escape.
Hartley became the object of a widespread manhunt. He was located on the morning of May 18 by Sheriff Daniel, a deputy, and Missouri Highway Patrol officers Nathan Massie and Ben Graham, holed up in a house south of Dugginsville. Surprised, Hartley came out firing, and the officers returned fire. Hartley dropped to the ground, apparently dead, and Graham and the deputy left to get their vehicles. While they were gone, Hartley suddenly revived and again opened fire on the remaining two officers before fleeing into the underbrush. Graham and Massie finally located the fugitive again later the same day and mortally wounded him in another exchange of fire. Hartley died 45 minutes later while being transported back to Gainesville.

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